Maps app: the embedded turn-by-turn navigator feature in Windows 10 Mobile / Windows 10. A comparison with HERE Drive+

The last Windows 10 Mobile build 10581 is very stable and it is the first Windows 10 Mobile build I feel useable, with battery life more on par with WP 8.1, e.g. outstanding, than with previous insider builds. Therefore I think it can be already used to update (as an Insider) your “old” Windows Phone 8.1 Lumia.

One of the uses of a smartphone is nowadays to be a navigator, so I think that at least a good app that perform this feature (possibly for free) is very relevant to be in a Store. I personally think that HERE Drive+ app is a nice and well designed navigator app and when it was released in Windows Phone 8 it was one of the possible good reasons to choose a Windows Phone device. Unfortunately, after the problems of Nokia and its partial acquisition from Microsoft, HERE (that now it is owned by the three main German cars factories) implemented a version of its app also for the other two platforms (Android and iOS) and in some way froze the Windows Phone release. If you look to the here site you will soon notice that the Windows Store logo is missing in their client apps. I don’t know what is the roadmap of HERE navigation app for the new Windows 10 (quite never the roadmap are public also because they always change depending on end user feedbacks; … sometimes there are still public defined roadmaps, like for Office 365): I suppose that it will depend on the future of this SO on platforms that could be used as a navigator (so not necessarily only smartphones, but also tablets, car devices and so on). The Windows Phone 8 version of HERE Drive is not an Universal app, so in the Windows Store you can’t find it from a PC/tablet (able to run only old Windows apps or Universal ones) but only from a Windows 10 Mobile device (that is able to run, for compatibility reasons, all the “old” app developed with every technology used for Windows Phone 8 and 8.1 – not for WP 7). I hope that in the near future HERE will release a new version of its app as an Universal App and that also the new features included in the current Android/iOS versions will be available in Windows 10 platform one too: we will see … but being Maps app the future default navigator in Windows 10, may be they could continue to invest less than on other platforms :-/
[7 January 2016 Note: it is now more than one month than all the HERE apps are not available any more in the Windows Store. At this link there is the following official declaration: “For new users, the HERE apps are temporarily unavailable in the Windows Store due to an issue unrelated to Microsoft. HERE apologizes for any inconvenience and we are working to resolve the situation as soon as possible“. Let we see … :-/

22 February 2016 Note: all the HERE apps are again available in the Windows Store and one of them [HERE Maps] it is also available for tablet/PC 😉
]

Anyway, as I read, Microsoft bought the rights (for many years) for using the Navteq charts and now implemented, in its great Universal App Maps, also a turn-by-turn navigation. It is for now very basic, as the MVP (Minimal Viable Product) methodology suggests.

The Maps app is great … it has a lot of features (may be too much for a single app): the 3D maps are impressing and the street view too, better than Google ones: the only problem is that they are now available only for too few places … but this is not a matter of the app! Navigating inside one city is an incredible experience, especially using a touchscreen that allows you to easily rotate and zoom …

Maps: examples of 3D maps

Maps: examples of 3D maps

Maps: example of street view

Maps: example of street view

I personally think that it was a right decision to internally implement a navigator, in order to be independent, for this relevant feature, from other app developers (free or buy ones): Windows 10 MUST have a free good embedded navigator! I said “embedded”, but it is not completely right because, being an app, it can be updated independently from the operating system … or it can be even uninstalled if you don’t need or like it: that first consideration is, in my opinion, the most relevant one, because I expect that the now missing features will be available in next updates … so let suggest to Microsoft which missing one you’d like more to have and what of the current user interface seem not to be very usable to you! However, unfortunately, the feedback link can be found not very easily (it is placed as one of the toolbar menu voices while navigating!): usually, in new Universal Apps, this link is available in the home page, possibly as a visible smile icon … and this will be my first suggestion to Microsoft developers! Alternatively, to provide a feedback, you can also use from the Start, the Feedback app or the Insider Hub one (this last one available only to Insiders) or the Windows Feature Suggestions Windows Community forum.

In this post I report my first impressions in using the turn-by-turn feature from the Directions voice menu of the embedded Maps app. I’ll try also to underline the lacks that this new app still have and I’ll give some suggestions for possible improvements. Sometime I will do also a comparison with the HERE Drive+ app because I think that it can be taken as an example of good user interface for a navigator app and also … because it uses the same charts and (possibly) services. In fact, both Maps and HERE Drive+ apps use the same Navteq cartography, the same traffic information and the same services and logic for the calculation of alternative paths (even though, after some trials, I have now some doubts on this last point – see screenshots below).

=======================================================

The following basic features are already implemented in Maps app:

  • Directions from site A (possibly your current position) to site B: too often only one solution is proposed.
  • Launch of Maps app from Cortana in order to navigate to one specific place.
  • Synthetized voice instructions.
  • Current speed.
  • Current speed limit and alert when exceeded more than the value configured among the options.
  • Distance of site B from site A, duration of the trip and arrival time.
  • Selection of directions for travels by car, by bus or walking.

You can also save your car position in order to find it (Steps:

  1. Once you have parked your car in the parking spot, open Maps app.
  2. Click on Favorites icon.
  3. Under Car, select Add location.
  4. Optionally take a picture of the parking spot or add notes to help remind you where you parked the car.  Adjust the estimated parking location if needed.
  5. Get directions to your car when you’re ready to navigate back to the parking location.
Reminder for parked car

Reminder for parked car

)

=======================================================

In the following there is the list of missing features or the ones that can be improved in Maps app, … in my opinion: they are not in priority order, because they are all relevant for a nice navigator app!

  1. The UI is not designed for use in a car behind a wheel: this is the main lack!! The interface is super tiny, one won’t be able to change anything once driving … and even without driving the use of that interface with a small touchscreen device is hard: for example, the setting of the preferences are very hard to be used. For example, there are slider controls to set the speed limit alert overcoming and when you scroll to see all the available options, it is very easy to change those values without wanting to: slider controls shouldn’t be used in a scrolling page!
  2. The UI is heavily in favor to work on portrait mode, that is the one that normally is NOT used for a navigator: in landscape mode, lots of map space is wasted on the top for few text indications (or nothing … only background) and you really feel tight, looking to the road in the map.
  3. No vocal interaction internal to Maps app is available till now and the integration with voice recognition and Cortana is limited to launching that app, asking for directions to a specific place. In particular the interactions with maps and directions seems to be only of the following typology (at least looking to the page related to Windows Phone 8‘s Cortana (no documentation is still available for the Windows 10 version):
    [eng] “Get me directions to the Grand Canyon“; “Where am I?“; “How long will it take me to get to the Space Needle?“; “Show me a map of 123 Main Street“; “How far to Four Corners National Park?“; “What’s traffic like on the way to work?
    [ita] “Dammi le indicazioni per arrivare a Castello Sforzesco“; “Dove mi trovo?“; “Quanto ci vuole per arrivare in Duomo?“; “Mostrami una mappa di Via del Corso 123“; “Quanto è distante il Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio?“; “Com’è il traffico sulla strada per arrivare a lavoro?“). I tried also other commands like the Italian “Portami in Piazza Castello” (that it is like saying “Take me to … one specific place”) and Maps app was launched to navigate to that place, … so I suppose that  Cortana’s capabilities are much more than the previous declared few phrase structures.
  4. No way to plan a trip going from site A to site B passing through other sites (e.g. site C).
  5. Too often, especially for long trips, only one path is suggested: much better it would be if more alternatives should be always shown and the user could choose the one he prefers. Strangely, if you ask for a  short trip (let say inside a town) it is more common than more than one alternative is proposed, while always (in my current experience) only on is proposed for longer trips.
  6. There is no POI (Point Of Interest) management: it does not have not only the  capability to import external defined POIs from standard or common format files, but it doesn’t have neither embedded ones.
  7. No favorite site and travels management is available. You can only set favorite places, not travels and, moreover, those ones are for all the Maps app features and not only to its navigation part: maybe you want to have New York as a favorite place but you’ll never plan a trip to that place!! So there is the need to have navigator specific favorites in terms of places and trips.
  8. An history of last travels is missing, so you cannot select from a list the same travel you did in the past and set it as the current desired one (as people often do using a generic navigator).
  9. The start of a navigation is not friendly: it is nearly hard to find that Maps app includes also a turn-by-turn navigation if you don’t know! A shortcut should be provided to start, directly from the home page, a turn-by-turn navigation: I know that there is already the feature to launch Maps and a navigation with Cortana, but this only from outside Maps app and I think it is not sufficient.
  10. The feedback link for receiving user feedback is not easily available (it is placed as one of the toolbar menu voices while navigating!). Very often in new Universal Apps this link is available in the home page, possibly as a visible smile icon.
  11. The voice messages are only provided with vocal synthesis of one typology: it is, at least for me, very hard to use that kind of instructions for a long journey!! Much better a recorded voice (choosing from a male or female one) that simply gives the essentials driving instructions (without giving the street name that, quite always, is not needed … and whenever you need, you have only to look the street name on the screen!).
  12. It is not possible to create a tile associated to a specific travel (e.g. from home to work and viceversa) in order to get, also directly from that tile, traffic information or whatever news, nearly the time slots selected for the going and return trips. (Here’s My travels feature).
  13. It is not possible to save your current position, possibly afterwards to set directions to go back to that place (and possibly store it in your favorites places). A Find my car feature can be a further specific usage of the same feature that could anyway be conveniently added as a specific voice menu/button, because it can be often used.
  14. There is no way to define a specific travel on PC (may be from a web interface too) and then recover it from your mobile device (e.g. smartphone).
  15. Some toolbar overlap already existing one: bad design!! (e.g. during navigation, clicking to the menu voice Impostazioni (Settings), a new toolbar is displayed over the already existing one: see screenshot below).
  16. There is not a documentation for this turn-by-turn features (neither online), possibly because Windows 10 Mobile is still in preview (even though Maps is an Universal App, so it is already available also to all devices included tablet (possibly having GPS and GSM) that already have a final release of Windows 10.
  17. Some showed text should be revised, at least in its translation {e.g. Why call “Directions” ([it]”Indicazioni“) and not, more explicitly, “Navigator” ([it]”Navigatore“); why saying, to get exit confirmation, “Interrompere la navigazione vocale” (I suppose in English “Stop voice navigation“) when it is sufficient saying “Interrompere la navigazione” (“Stop navigation“) with a higher text (and buttons) size?}
  18. Why not having a separate navigator app (easily to setup the starting and with its own favorites and setting options), instead of having in one single one may be too much features (2D and 3D maps, streetview, navigator, …)?

Note that most of the previously listed missing features of Maps app are already available in HERE app, even though some of them can be found only in new Android/iOS app versions associated also to the HERE site.

NOTE: in my tests, searching the same directions at the same time and places, gave a different trip in Here and in Maps: so I suppose that different back office services are used. The ones used by Maps app are the ones available to all the Universal apps that are Bing services ... I don’t know what are the HERE Drive ones (probably others internal to HERE).

===================================

In the following there are some screenshots so you can compare yourself the different implemented interfaces in Maps app and HERE Drive+ app … and I think it points out some of the previously listed lacks in the directions feature of the current version of Maps app.

Maps: setting options

Maps: setting options

Maps: avoid settings

Maps: avoid settings

HERE: options menu

HERE: options menu

HERE: settings

HERE: settings

HERE: route preferences

HERE: route preferences

=====================

Maps: menu options during navigation

Maps: menu options during navigation

Clicking to the menu voice Impostazioni (Settings), a new toolbar is displayed over the already existing one: bad design!!

Maps: menu options during navigation - Settings (Impostazioni)

Maps: menu options during navigation – Settings (Impostazioni)

HERE: menu options during navigation

HERE: menu options during navigation

=====================

Maps: starting navigation

Maps: starting navigation

HERE: starting navigation

HERE: starting navigation (1)

HERE: starting navigation (1)

HERE: starting navigation (2)

===============

Maps: navigation

Maps: navigation (portrait mode)

HERE: navigation (portrate mode)

HERE: navigation (portrait mode)

====================

Maps: navigation (landscape mode)

Maps: navigation (landscape mode)

HERE: navigation (landscape mode)

HERE: navigation (landscape mode)

=====================

NOTE: searching the same directions at the same time and places, gave a different trip in Here and in Maps: thank you to Tony (see comments) now we know that Microsoft created their own routing algorithms and so Maps uses Bing services that are other than the HERE ones.

Maps: different directions, respect <em>HERE</em>, for reaching the same site at the same time

Maps: different directions, respect HERE, for reaching the same site at the same time

HERE: different directions, respect <em>Maps</em>, for reaching the same site at the same time

HERE: different directions, respect Maps, for reaching the same site at the same time

===================

Maps: navigation end

Maps: navigation end

HERE: navigation end

HERE: navigation end

==============================================================

NOTES
Even though Maps app is an Universal App, to see how it look on a smartphone it is not sufficient to properly reduce the app window on a PC, because for this app (like other ones) the UI changes (really too little, in my opinion) on the basis of the device: the minimum dimension of a PC window is 500 epx [effective pixel], while for a smartphone the minimum dimension is lower.

The strength of the new model of Windows 10 is that now 99% native applications (including Maps) are unrelated from the operating system and so then can update independently: therefore, the development cycle and release will surely be more agile than in the past.

You can download Maps (IT: Mappe Windows) from this link.

PS: if you want to read some news about HERE apps, you can visit HERE 360, the official HERE blog. As said in this post of that blog, if you experience problems updating the HERE apps, please contact customer care at appsupport@here.com. You can use also the form help.here.com/contact. For new users, the HERE apps are temporarily unavailable [20/12/2015] in the Windows Store due to an issue unrelated to Microsoft. HERE apologizes for any inconvenience and is working to resolve the situation as soon as possible.

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Informazioni su Enzo Contini

Electronic engineer
Digressione | Questa voce è stata pubblicata in Review e test, Windows, Windows Phone/Mobile. Contrassegna il permalink.

6 risposte a Maps app: the embedded turn-by-turn navigator feature in Windows 10 Mobile / Windows 10. A comparison with HERE Drive+

  1. Massimo ha detto:

    Thanks Enzo for the interesting post.

    For your information: I find at the moment that for my lumia 730 running WP10 in the app store there are two distinct here drive+ apps, of which only one can be installed.

    At first I got scared because I tried the one and it looked like the application could not be installed anymore. Then I rejoiced when I found out that the second one works as usual 🙂 phew

    The thing is somehow described also at this page:
    http://www.windowscentral.com/here-maps-drive-windows-10-mobile

    • Enzo Contini ha detto:

      Thank you Massimo for your comment. As you probably know, Here decided to retire, in a few weeks, from the Microsoft Store the Windows 10 mobile versions of all its apps, even though they can surely work properly (at least till the possible Redstone Windows 10 release will be distributed to customers). It is a senseless decision, as I had written in another more recent post, but it seems so … Therefore I suggest you to start using, at least sometime, the Maps app that now has been a little restyled and it is very well integrated with Cortana (so you can say to Cortana – e.g. in Italian – “portami in via … ” and the navigation will start). More possible roads can be suggested … It is getting started to be usable but there is the need that users send more and more feedbacks to make it be improved in the right way 😉

  2. Pingback: HERE decided to remove their apps from the Microsoft Windows 10 Store … with the excuse that it is only for technical reasons!! | Enzo Contini Blog

  3. Pingback: HERE decided to remove their apps from the Microsoft Windows 10 Store … with the excuse that it only for technical reasons!! | Enzo Contini Blog

  4. Tony ha detto:

    Thank you for the great write up. As an employee of HERE I am finding it disappointing that our HERE apps team has not given us any feedbacck on why they have not ported HERE DRIVE+ to Win10.

    Just a few quibbles:
    1: NAVTEQ no longer exists, it is used as a brand name of HERE map data now – people are just used to it 🙂
    2: Bing/MS — uses HERE map data as well as other map data overlayed from other resources to make their base routing map. They have created their own routing algorithms.

    • Enzo Contini ha detto:

      Thank you very much Tony for your comment!! … and thank you for the information you gave: I did not find anywhere!
      Please, whenever you could have some news, let us know: personally I think that HERE is a great product and HERE Team did a good job … I still hope that it will be also an universal app 😉

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